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Shah

Shah

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Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia (modern Iran), and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".

History


Shah or shahanshah ("King of Kings
King of Kings
King of Kings is a title that has been used by several monarchies and empires throughout history. The title originates in the Ancient Near East. It is broadly the equivalent of the later title Emperor....

") was the title of Persian emperors or kings. It includes rulers of the first Persian Empire, the Achaemenid dynasty
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

, who unified Persia and created a vast intercontinental empire, as well as rulers of succeeding dynasties. The title was also extensively used later by emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

s of the Indian subcontinent, including those of the Mughal Empire
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

. For instance, the third Mughal emperor, Akbar the Great (1542–1605), was formally known as "Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam".

The full title of the Achaemenid rulers was Kshatriya Kshatriyanamah, "King of Kings" in Old Persian
Old Persian language
The Old Persian language is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages . Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets, and seals of the Achaemenid era...

, corresponding to Middle Persian
Middle Persian
Middle Persian , indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a...

 šāhān šāh, literally "kings' king", and Modern Persian shāhanshāh (شاهنشاه). In Greek, this phrase was translated as "βασιλεύς τῶν βασιλέων (basileus
Basileus
Basileus is a Greek term and title that has signified various types of monarchs in history. It is perhaps best known in English as a title used by the Byzantine Emperors, but also has a longer history of use for persons of authority and sovereigns in ancient Greece, as well as for the kings of...

 tōn basiléōn)", "king of kings", equivalent to emperor. Both terms were often shortened to their roots: shah and basileus.
In Western languages, shah is often used as an imprecise rendering of shāhanshāh. The term was first recorded in English in 1564 as a title for the king of Persia, with the spelling "Shaw". For a long time, Europeans thought of shah as a particular royal title rather than an imperial one, although the monarchs of Persia regarded themselves as emperors of the Persian Empire (later the Empire of Iran). The European opinion changed in the Napoleonic era, when Persia was an ally of the Western powers eager to make the Ottoman Sultan release his hold on various (mainly Christian) European parts of the Ottoman Empire, and western (Christian) emperors had obtained the Ottoman acknowledgement that their western imperial styles were to be rendered in Turkish as padishah
Padishah
Padishah, Padshah, Padeshah, Badishah or Badshah is a superlative royal title, composed of the Persian pād "master" and the widespread shāh "king", which was adopted by several monarchs claiming the highest rank, roughly equivalent to the ancient Persian notion of "The Great" or "Great King", and...

.

The last shah of Persia
Pahlavi dynasty
The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, officially adopted the title شاهنشاه shâhanshâh (literally King of Kings) and, in western languages, the rendering as "Emperor". He also styled his wife شهبانو shahbânu
Shahbanu
Shahbanu means Empress in Persian. It was a title that was only conferred on the third royal consort of Mohammad Reza Shah, Farah Pahlavi, in 1967....

(empress).

Ruler styles

  • The title padishah
    Padishah
    Padishah, Padshah, Padeshah, Badishah or Badshah is a superlative royal title, composed of the Persian pād "master" and the widespread shāh "king", which was adopted by several monarchs claiming the highest rank, roughly equivalent to the ancient Persian notion of "The Great" or "Great King", and...

    (Great King
    Great King
    Great King and the equivalent in many languages is a semantic title for historical titles of Monarchs, suggesting an elevated status among the host of Kings and Princes...

    ) was also adopted from the Iranians
    Iranian peoples
    The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

     by the Ottoman
    Ottoman Empire
    The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

    s, and by various other Islamic monarchs claiming imperial rank, such as the Indian Mughals.
  • Another subsidiary style of the Ottoman sultan khan was Shah-i-Alam Panah, meaning "King, refuge of the world".
  • Some monarchs were known by a contraction of the kingdom's name with shah, such as Khwarezmshah, ruler of the short-lived Muslim realm of Khwarezmia, or the more modest Azeri Shirvanshah
    Shirvanshah
    Shirvanshah also spelled as Shīrwān Shāh or Sharwān Shāh, was the title in mediaeval Islamic times of an Arab in Ethnos but speedily Persianized dynasty within their culturally Persian environment. The Shirvanshah established a native state in Shirvan...

     of Shirvan (later a modest khanate).
  • The kings of Georgia
    Georgia (country)
    Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

     called themselves shahanshah. The last such monarch was Irakli II, who in 1783 adopted Russified titles instead, due to the influence of imperial Russia
    Russian Empire
    The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

    .

Shahzada


Shahzada (Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 شاهزاده Šāhzādé). In the realm of a shah (or a more lofty derived ruler style), a prince of the blood was logically called shahzada as the term is derived from shah using the Persian patronymic suffix -zāde or -zāda, "son, descendant"; it also means a Gujarati
Gujarati people
Gujarati people , or Gujaratis are an ethnic group that is traditionally Gujarati-speaking and can trace their ancestry to the state of Gujarat in western India...

 prince. However the precise full styles can differ in the court traditions of each shah's kingdom. Female descendants or princesses are called Shahzadi.

Thus, in Oudh, only sons of the sovereign shah bahadur (see above) were by birth-right styled "Shahzada [personal title] Mirza
Mirza
Mirza , is of Persian origin, denoting the rank of a high nobleman or Prince. It is usually translated into English as a royal or imperial Prince of the Blood...

 [personal name] Bahadur", though this style could also be extended to individual grandsons and even further relatives. Other male descendants of the sovereign, in the male line were merely styled "Mirza [personal name]" or "[personal name] Mirza". This could even apply to non-Muslim dynasties. For example, the younger sons of the ruling Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

 maharaja of Punjab were styled "Shahzada [personal name] Singh Bahadur".

The corruption shahajada, "Shah's son", taken from the Mughal title Shahzada, is the usual princely title borne by the grandsons and male descendants of a Nepalese sovereign, in the male line.

For the heir to a "Persian-style" shah's royal throne, more specific titles were used, containing the key element Vali Ahad, usually in addition to shahzada, where his junior siblings enjoyed this style.

Other styles

  • Shahbanu
    Shahbanu
    Shahbanu means Empress in Persian. It was a title that was only conferred on the third royal consort of Mohammad Reza Shah, Farah Pahlavi, in 1967....

    (Persian شهبانو, Šahbānū): Persian term using the word Shah and the Perian suffix -banu ("lady"): Empress, in modern times, the official title of Empress Farah Pahlavi.
  • Shahdokht (Persian شاهدخت Šāhdoxt) is also another term derived from shah using the Persian patronymic suffix -dokht "daughter, female descendant", to address the Princess of the imperial households.

Related terms

  • Shah is a widespread name in Iran and the Indian subcontinent. See Shah (surname)
    Shah (surname)
    Shah is a surname found among the people of South Asia and their diaspora. In the Gujarat and Rajasthan regions of India, Shah is common among the Hindu and Jain banias . The surname derives from the Gujarati sah...

    .
  • Satrap
    Satrap
    Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

    , the term in Western languages for a governor of a Persian province, is a distortion of xšaθrapāvan, literally "guardian of the realm", which derives from the word xšaθra, an Old Persian word meaning "realm, province" and related etymologically to shah.
  • Maq'ad-i-Shah
    Mogadishu
    Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

    (Persian مقعد شاه Maq'ad-i-Shah), the phrase from which the name of Mogadishu
    Mogadishu
    Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

     is believed to be derived, which means "The seat of the Shah", a reflection of the city's early Persian influence.
  • Chess
    Chess
    Chess is a two-player board game played on a chessboard, a square-checkered board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.Each player...

    and the chess term check in Western languages are derived from shah, transmitted through Arabic.

External links